[This was supposed to post at 12 noon, but somewhere in the saving process I lost half the post. And work was WAY too busy to post during the day.]
What if the marriage is bigamous — if you know the husband has another wife?
Well, that’s illegal.
Assume we’re in a state or country where it’s perfectly legal. Would you attend the wedding of a Mormon to his third wife if that were consistent with their religion and not illegal?
I suppose so — for a good friend or a relative. Sure.
What if it’s a wedding of a 24-year old man to a 12-year old girl — if it’s legal and both parties consent.
I see where you’re going. You know, that used to be a very common practice. I must say I find it repulsive. Almost pedophilia. But that’s still common practice in some Middle Eastern countries and has been for thousands of years.
Would you attend? Take the pictures? Bake the cake?
If it was truly consensual and consistent with their cultural practices, and it was a really good friend, it would be hard to say no. Oww. I’m really uncomfortable with this whole conversation, you know. These are unpleasant, painfully challenging questions. Marriage is so very close to our hearts. And we all know cases where weddings have led to abusive situations. It’s just so hard to go to a wedding, smile, drink punch, and congratulate the couple when you know it’s all a very bad idea.
So the baker should have made the cake?
There are a hundred ways to argue it, but let’s keep it simple. She was put in a very difficult, unfair situation. Does she do more harm than good by saying yes or by saying no? If she says no, she makes the couple angry. She doesn’t bring them any closer to Jesus. Indeed, she will create resentment against Christians. After all, they may have to leave town to find an equally good baker. Brides can be very particular about their wedding cakes (although they all look and taste about the same to me). She has at least inconvenienced them, but they may be seriously upset by not getting the wedding they want (I have a son getting married soon. And not just any cake will do, you know.)
But it’s wildly improbable that they rethink their lifestyle choices and change their ways over a refused wedding cake. People aren’t like that. However, sometimes — perhaps years later — a woman concludes that she should never have been in a lesbian relationship and leaves the relationship, going straight (as it were). (Women are far more likely to be bisexual or even mistaken about their sexual identity than men. See Patrick Mead’s post.) Indeed, if such a woman decides to rethink her sexuality and has a high view of Christians as kind, generous, gracious people, she may well seek their help and consider becoming a faithful Christian when she makes her decision. But if she’s been (as she sees things) discriminated against and vilified by Christians, she’ll not convert regardless of her sexual preference.
The only way for her to think of Christians as kind, generous, and gracious people is to treat her in a way that she perceives as kind, generous, and gracious. Bake the cake. The only people who will condemn the baker are the baker’s Christian friends.
Well, that sounds very pragmatic, but I’m looking for some serious theology here. I’m not sure you decide right and wrong based on a cost-benefit analysis.
Fair enough. Consider Jesus. Jesus ate with publicans (Roman collaborators!) and “sinners.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, D. A. Carson says that “sinners” in the Gospels includes prostitutes. Now, in the First Century, eating with someone implied acceptance into one’s social circle.
(Mat 9:10-12 NAS) 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.
Meals were served “family style,” that is, food was served from a common bowl. Moreover,
… Richard Rackham directly connected these meals [described in Acts 2] with Jesus’ practice of open table fellowship. … [E]ating together has always been a sign of fellowship, especially among Semites. “To eat bread or salt with another, even with a deadly enemy, created a bond which could not be violated.” … More recently, William Willimon has noted that, since social boundaries are enforced most rigidly at table, eating together becomes a mark of solidarity across class lines.
Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts, by Reta Halteman Finger, p. 51. No wonder the Pharisees took offense at Jesus for eating with sinners! It’s one thing to lecture them on the error their ways, and quite another to eat with them!
Luke shares a similar event —
(Luk 15:1-2 NAS) Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus responded by telling a series of three parables, culminating in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Now, among Middle Easterners, the most shocking part of the parable is the father’s behavior. You see, they lived in an honor culture, and the father maintains his honor, despite his son’s sins against the family, by insisting that the son come to him and beg forgiveness. The father must sit in his tent or house, stone faced, refusing to be brought low by his son.
But as Jesus describes the father, he runs toward the son, embracing him before the son can even apologize! This is considered disgraceful in that part of the world, a loss of honor. And yet Jesus describes God himself as willing to accept the criticism of his neighbors and friends, even to humiliate himself, to restore a lost child to the family.
Of course, Jesus emulated his Father by living this very way, by running toward the sinners, embracing them with a super-human love. Jesus suffered the condemnation and humiliation of society to be with prostitutes and other rejects. Why? Well, because only the sick need a physician.
One more example from Jesus —
(Luk 7:34-35 NAS) 34 “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
“Wisdom is vindicated by all her children” means “look at the results.” Jesus justifies his socially unacceptable behavior by the results. He was being pragmatic, because love isn’t really love unless you care whether your methods are effective. It’s not just about being clean or pure. It’s about being will to touch the unclean so that God may cleanse them.
Luke immediately follows with the story of the woman — possibly a prostitute — who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. She was a daughter of his wisdom!
So what does he say when the lesbian couple asks to buy a cake?
Well, he obviously doesn’t approve their sexual relations — no more than he approved the sex life of the Samaritan woman at the well. But he still seeks an opportunity to spend some time with them to share the good news.
After all, when Jesus was at the well, he didn’t preach a sermon against fornication. He spoke about the Holy Spirit and worship. He answered questions. He formed a relationship. Therefore, I think Jesus would react very differently from how most of us would. I mean, if we modern evangelicals had a good sense of how to act like Jesus, church life would be radically different. Let’s start by admitting to ourselves that we just aren’t very good at doing what Jesus would do.
I think Jesus might just say, “Tell you what — I’ll give you the cake for free if I can come to the rehearsal dinner and the reception.” And then he’d go and share the good news of the kingdom in positive, exciting, powerful ways. He’d draw the couple and their families and friends toward him through his powerful love. At the right time, he’d teach them about God’s design for sexuality, but he wouldn’t begin by damning them. He’d begin by loving them — even if every church in town condemned him from their pulpits the next Sunday.
You have a really strange understanding of Jesus. I mean, what part of “abomination” do you not understand?
Well, if you read the Old Testament prophets, you’ll find that they condemn injustice to the poor and a lack of hospitality as just as much an abomination as homosexuality.
(Eze 16:49-50 NAS) 49 “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom [metaphor for Samaria, that is, the Northern Kingdom]: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50 “Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
Would you attend the wedding of a wealthy person who cared nothing for the poor?
You’re a clever debater, but what about —
(Rom 1:26-1 NAS) 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. … 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Paul not only condemns homosexual activity (and I know you agree) but also those who approve those who do such things! How dare we participate in an event designed to celebrate a sin! It’s not just a wedding.
Think about it. Why do homosexuals marry? To legalize sex? No. To be able to inherit? No. To be able to obtain tax benefits? No. To bear children? No. I think virtually all homosexual marriages are political statements, designed to normalize homosexuality, to reverse the objection that marriage is for a man and woman and thus sex is only for a man and a woman. It’s part of a social and political agenda and nothing more.
And you’ve already admitted that we should not allow ourselves to be used to appear to approve such an agenda.
Well, I admit that I’ve never been invited to such a wedding. They’re not legal in Alabama, and they won’t be any time soon. Homosexuality is a long way from normalization here. I see your point, but wonder whether you’re over-generalizing, assuming to be true facts that are convenient to what you want to prove. I wonder how your theory might be tested …
My head hurts. And that means yours does, too. I think it’s time to pray over this one for more than a few days. It’s a tough one. Time for another topic?